Moving On

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C. S. Lewis

There is a weariness that grows when packing up a home. It’s not so much the physical labor as it is the tedium of seeing your possessions out of sorts. When you’ve seen your life, your things arranged in one pattern for so many years, your mind can’t immediately comprehend the scattering of packing paper, stacks of boxes and picture less walls where an organized room once existed. It works to set things back into place.

My mind is re-arranging the chaos in our home when Paul shouts “Have you gone through your nightstand yet?” At this point, it is less of a question than a demand. I have put this task off because I know that I will have to make decisions about what stays and what goes while sorting through the remnants of my life, stuffed into a couple of night stand drawers.

Dutifully, I walk up the steps and then pause at the landing. I lean on the door jamb of the girl’s empty room, and flick on the light. It looks so much bigger without the furniture. My mind takes me back to the first time I met Paul’s children. It was a cold starry night with drifts of snow lining the streets. But when I entered the house, it was filled with warm yellow laughter. We went to see a local production of “A Christmas Carol” that night. I pretended to watch three spirits overact on stage while I fell in love with the profile of Paul’s face. A month later I spent New Year’s Eve with Paul and the children. That’s when he fell in love with me. He says it was earlier than that. But I know better, because that was when the nightstand on the right side of the bed became mine.

I walk into the bedroom with a garbage bag in one hand and a box in the other. Slowly I lower myself to the floor. There is a ghost of me lying on the bed with one hand resting on the nightstand arranging the pictures of my own daughters. There is sadness in his expression because in those early days, his mind had trouble re-arranging what was missing in his heart with what was found.

I open the drawer and begin to sort through the contents. There is a stack of cards and notes from Paul. When he would leave for business trips, he would place a note on my pillow. “Goodnight handsome man”, one of them states in his neat handwriting. Another card is illustrated with two ridiculous looking reptiles staring at each other with a heart floating above their heads. Underneath each one our nicknames “Willy” and “Scooter” are written. On the inside of the card, it simply states “Iguana love you forever.” I laugh as I place these in the keep box. And so it goes with a restaurant receipt, a Singapore dollar, a 20 baht bill from Thailand and a travel magazine from Ogunquit, Maine, dated July 2008.

Then I find a wedding band; different from the one circling my finger now. In that band a thousand more memories are stored; memories of moves similar to this one, but different in so many ways. When I wore that band, I used to convince myself that each move would finally make me happy. But when all of the furniture was arranged in the new house, it didn’t seem to fit. I place the band on the nightstand and pull out a teddy bear. It was left behind in the old house when my daughters moved back to Virginia. I tried to give it back to Taylor, but she told me to keep it. “I don’t want you to be lonely, it will keep you company at night” she said. I pick up the band, it’s just a piece of gold, but without it, there would be no teddy bear, so I place them both in the keep box.

When I am done, the things I keep fits into the size of a shoe box. I bring the box downstairs and pack it in a larger box. Within hours the house is empty and we walk from room to room as Monique runs through the house giggling, just as she did when Paul first moved in. In the living room two ghost lovers, the new owners, smile at each other full of pride, promise and love. They kiss and make love in front of the fireplace.

We walk outside and regard the container filled with what we keep, most of the furniture sold or donated to friends and family. I wonder if the container were to become lost and opened by someone in the future, what would they think about my shoebox of remnants? But more importantly, if this container became lost I think my mind would be at ease; when things are arranged properly in your heart nothing else matters.

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